Dearest Mother and Father,
Blood ran down the corner of her lips, down the deep gash at the side of her abdomen where his boot had connected with her flesh. She was gasping for breath, her vision swam. She would have cried, would have screamed, but for the fact that doing so sent a splintering pain through her bruised ribs.
I love you, and I always will.
They had been married exactly three years ago, to the day. Lakshmi still remembered the first time she had seen him, shyly looking up at her prospective groom from under her lashes in the drawing room of her parents’ rather rundown flat in Bankura. He had been exquisitely dressed in a cream-coloured sherwani with silver buttons. If asked, she would have sworn right then that she was head over heels in love with Jaivardhan.
Of course, no one asked.
No matter where I am, however far away.
Her father owned a tiny watch-repair shop that hadn’t turned much of a profit for a few years now. She had two younger sisters, but no brother; nobody to supplement the family’s meagre income. Her parents hadn’t been able to educate her beyond high school. While reasonably good-looking, Lakshmi was no remarkable beauty, and she knew it. That a young man from a family as prosperous as Jaivardhan’s would be willing to marry her was almost a miracle. His family had even offered to invest in her father’s shop. There had never been any question of turning down the offer.
I’m hurting all over, nothing feels good anymore.
The honeymoon had been spectacular. Lakshmi had never seen anything half so beautiful or splendid as the view of the vast sea from their room in the resort. The bed was as soft as the clouds, the sheets warm and luxurious. When he’d touched her for the first time, it was as if a world of new possibilities had opened up before her eyes, as if her world had been forever and irrevocably changed.
If only she’d known then, how right she was.
It’s as if my whole world has been swallowed up by a darkness I can’t escape.
The final night of their stay at the resort in Puri, she had seen Jaivardhan drink for the first time. She came from a conservative home, and had never actually seen liquor before outside of television ads. She did not like to see her handsome, wonderful husband swirling the dark liquid in his hand, his eyes red-rimmed and lips parted in careless laughter, at something one of the ladies from the party lodging with them had said. But she was just a small-town girl, she told herself. What did she know? Perhaps this was what all city people did.
I want to end this, once and for all.
That night he had been rough with her, for the first time since their wedding. Had held her down forcefully, wouldn’t let up even when she had told him, gasping, that she couldn’t breathe under his greater weight. She had had to wear a full-sleeved blouse on the journey back home, for the bruises still showed on her wrists, dark and angry.
Want to be happy again, free of this all-encompassing darkness.
He had apologised profusely, had bought her beautiful silver bangles for their one-month anniversary. He had dressed up in a striking lilac shirt with gold cufflinks, had taken her hand and gently slipped the pretty bangles up her wrists. They had had dinner at one of the fanciest restaurants Lakshmi had ever laid eyes on. Those were some of the happiest memories of her life. By the end of the evening, they had run across Jaivardhan’s old school friend and his wife at the restaurant. His friend invited them both for a drink. Jaivardhan drank, just a little bit.
It is not your fault Mummy; or yours Dad. Please believe me.
That was the first night he had drawn blood. She had spent the entire ride back home begging him not to drink anymore. He had said nothing, had barely managed to keep control of the vehicle. It was a miracle they hadn’t been stopped by the traffic police. When finally they had reached home, he had waited for her to enter the flat, had stepped in after her, and locked the door. Then he had taken off his belt…
You have raised me to the best of your ability; have given me all the love in the world.
He always apologised, bought her pretty gifts afterwards. But she was running out of full sleeved blouses. The bruises and gashes hardly had time to heal anymore, before new ones appeared to take their place. She had cried herself hoarse, but there was no one to listen. If she told her parents, the funds for the shop would stop. They would be ruined; her sisters’ education would have to be stopped. And she could not, would not abandon them to a fate such as her own. She could not live with herself if they ever lay bleeding on the floor because of her selfishness.
And for that I will be forever grateful.
She finally dragged herself off the floor. Gasping for breath, tears blurring her vision, she made her way slowly towards the writing table, blood dripping in her wake. Wiping her blood and tear stained fingers on her housecoat, she pulled out a clean sheet of paper from the pile on the desk. Taking a deep breath to calm the incessant shaking of her hands, she finally touched pen to paper.
No one is responsible for my death.
Folding the letter carefully into an envelope and sealing it, Lakshmi slowly got off the table. Reaching into an alcove under the little shrine beside the huge, glittering bar in the drawing room, she recovered a small, sharp knife she had bought at one of Bankura’s fairs before her marriage, as a curiosity. She ran her fingers gently along its sharp edge, drawing a small pinprick of blood.
With lots of love,
She walked slowly, quietly into the bedroom, locking the door behind her. Her husband slept peacefully, spread-eagled on the huge bed, his head lolling off the pillow. Blissfully unaware of his wife’s agony.
She raised the knife to his throat.